When I was a youngster, I regularly went away to summer camp in Massachusetts. For many of my formative summers, Camp Becket was home away from home.
Each summer meant a new cabin and new cabin mates – surrogate brothers by the season’s end. It also meant a new counselor, the adult who lived in the cabin with us and was our de facto leader. And to this day, one counselor stands out well above the others: A. Leo Nash.
He was a mellow dude; totally cool and obviously an intellectual. Behind the tie dyed Grateful Dead tee shirts and shaggy mane of dark hair was a guy who taught us that having an inquisitive mind was just as important as beating the snot out of the other cabins in kick ball.
To this day, he is a giant in my childhood memories if only because he treated a bunch of loud and most certainly annoying 11 year-olds as adults. Becket was and still is, a classic summer camp – no electricity in the cabins and the boys are encouraged to be self reliant both individually and as teams. It was great, no cell phones, no computers; you actually had to go outside and do stuff.
The cabin counselor kept his kids together and walked the line between father figure and teacher. Leo was the best. He never spoke down to us and we respected him for it. I could only wish for such a role model for my son.
As an adult, I now see that Leo was also an immensely talented young man. He loved reading and debating, photography – something he encouraged in me – and music. He was also a hippie who passed on a love of words and ideas, a questioning of life’s purpose and the belief that choosing your path is a sort of philosophical journey. Basically he was cool.
After that year I only saw him once again; briefly during my next, and last, year at Becket. I had a new cabin and he had new charges. We all move on.
So imagine my surprise when the story below was aired on the CBS Morning Show a few months ago. I have not seen Leo in 26 years, but I knew immediately that it was he. That Leo is documenting Burning Man makes perfect sense to me; he has an amazing eye for mood and a philosopher’s love of the whole Burning Man world.
I am also happy to know that all these years later, he’s doing what he loves and am proud to say, “I knew Leo back when.”